Solon on SC ruling upholding her Filipino citizenship: 'Rule of law prevailed'

Published October 26, 2021, 2:38 PM

by Ben Rosario

Nueva Ecija Third District Rep. Rosanna “Ria” V. Vergara on Tuesday, Oct. 26 hailed the recent Supreme Court ruling that rejected doubts about her citizenship, declaring that she is a Filipino citizen.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Ria Vergara

Vergara, chairperson of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, said the High Court ruling released on Oct. 5 is a vindication of “her true and genuine service to the province of Nueva Ecija, most especially her constituents int he third district.

“I am grateful to the Supreme Court for upholding the decision of the HRET and more importantly, the will of the people in the Third District of Nueva Eicja who elected me to be their Representative in the 17th and 18th Congress,” said Vergara.

“Despite all the talk in my district by my detractors that the Supreme Court would strike down the HRET decision, I never lost hope because I always have faith in the integrity and fairness of our magistrates and in the rule of law. God bless the Supreme Court,” she added.

In an en banc ruling, the SC upheld the decision of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) that declared her a Filipino citizen.

The quo warranto petition filed against Vergara questioned her citizenship and sought her disqualification as member of Congress.

Vergara was born to Filipino parents on November 5, 1963. She was naturalized as an American citizen in 1998 and reacquired her Filipino citizenship in 2006.

Chaired by SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the HRET junked the quo warranto petition and declared Vergara a a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.

Vergara was first elected congresswoman in 2016 by handing then outgoing Gov. Aurelio “Oyie” Umali his first ever defeat in politics in over a decade as congressman and governor of Nueva Ecija.

Umali’s camp reportedly sought Vergara’s disqualification as congresswoman when executive assistant Philip Piccio led the filing of the quo warranto petition before the HRET.

The petitioners claimed that since the Bureau of Immigration (BI) only had photocopies of her application for reacquisition of Filipino citizenship under Republic Act 9225, claiming that she did not comply with the proper procedure required by law.

During the 17th Congress, the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability conducted a congressional inquiry to investigate the mysterious loss of Vergara’s RA 9225 records. In the course of the investigation, the BI, under the leadership of Commissioner Jaime H. Morente, affirmed that Vergara applied for and was granted the reacquisition of her Filipino citizenship way back in November 2006.

In its recent ruling upholding the HRET decision, the Supreme Court ruled that “there is overwhelming competent evidence proving Vergara’s compliance with Republic Act 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act) for the reacquisition of her Philippine citizenship.” As for the absence of her original RA 9225 documents at the Bureau, the high tribunal held that “the issue in the present case pertains to the existence and due execution of these documents and not their contents…. The best evidence rule requiring the production of the original documents does not apply.” The Court likewise stressed the state’s policy to hold the official custodian of public records accountable for their loss.

The High Tribunal stated that to rule otherwise will set the dangerous precedent “that documents duly filed but have gone missing while in the custody of the receiving agency, without fault or even knowledge of the persons filing, will be rendered useless and void xxx. This will bestow great injustice, not just upon Vergara or other similarly situated public officials, but likewise upon the general public who, in the first place, is powerless to prevent such mishaps.”